MIGRANT, BLACK AND PEOPLE OF COLOR RESISTANCE
Persons with Migration biographies, Blacks, and People of Color (Migra*BPoC) are the key actors, who experience but also challenge institutional and everyday racism in HEI.
Although it has been invisibilized for over decades, the political self-organization of migrants in Europe and elsewhere is as old as its presence. Within various student struggles in the last years around the globe, Migra*BPoC are raising the question of how to challenge, transform and decolonize HEI and how to organize against racist practices that take place in the campus.
Migra*BPoC resistance addresses a multi-issue and multi-dimensional agenda by looking at interlocking systems of oppression and their effects on racialized bodies. It also works on a transdimensional basis by interlinking the personal, interpersonal, structural, and institutional dimensions of violence.
Migra*BPoC resistance includes but is not limited to academic-political alliances with Migra*BPoC networks. It engages with new formats of collective learning, decolonizing education and the building of an inclusive intersectional and anti-racist university. Furthermore, it works towards pro-active peer support and transnational solidarity networks.
JLU and an.gekommen e.V. organized two participatory and interactive place-based workshops in January and February 2020, engaging with local pathways to education. The participants were Migra*/BPOC students (B.A. and M.A.), doctoral students and post-docs, as well as persons in the process of applying for asylum and international exchange students.
The first workshop was held on January 30th, under the title How do you feel about your academic experience in Germany?”. Here, the group was invited to make a collage with the question “How do I feel about my university/my academic experience in Germany?”. The second workshop, on February 27th, aimed at fostering empowering dynamics that deindividualize discrimination experiences and rather identify possibilities for institutional change. This workshop had the title “What gives you energy?”
Both workshops addressed two dimensions: first, creating awareness (concientizar) about the interplay of everyday individual experiences of discrimination; second, sharing strategies of self- and collective care as well as support structures of empowerment, on the other.
After each of the workshops, a smaller group met in order to reflect on the main observations, analysis and assumptions made in the workshop. A mind-map connecting the different examples was elaborated and final theoretical elaborations were made.
The relevance of including Eurocentrism in the toolkit emerged from two group dialogues with Migra*/BPoC students, PhDs and postdocs in Giessen, Germany. In both workshops, participants quickly started recounting specific stories of their studying experiences in Germany as well as everyday experiences.
Although all of the participants had different biographies and migration histories, they could relate to and often share the stories told by others in the groups, and connect these stories to their own lives. They also identified and explained the differences in experiencing discriminatory behavior due to ascribed group memberships e.g. along with gender and religion.
After these workshops, a smaller group (Migra*/BPOC students and doctoral students) worked with the material and shared their impressions and reflections, and identified three central dynamics of inclusion and exclusion in HEI along Eurocentrism in Giessen, Germany: 1), everyday practices of othering, often build on racist imaginaries. 2), ethnocentric mechanisms shaping the potential of success or failure in HEI. 3), HEI reproduce silently a nexus between education and whiteness. This mind-map was then again discussed in the smaller group and embedded in a theoretical framework.
As described in the tools “Eurocentrism” and “Neoliberal Compliance”, Migra*BPoC are daily confronted with discrimination and racism in HEI. As research on migration and racism shows, migration control policies and Eurocentric notions of Europe as white and Christian, create the migrant and racialized ‘Other’ as different to the population considered as ‘originally’ belonging to this place (Gutierrez Rodriguez 1999).
Feminist Migrants (FeMigra 1992) have drawn attention to the construction of the population as ‘migrant’ through migration policies. Within this context, they have critique state programs and scholarship on migrants operating with the paradigms and call for ‘assimilation’ and ‘integration’.
Migra*BPoC political activism and political participations take place on different levels. While some research accentuates the participation in demonstrations, protests, citizens’ initiatives, civic and voluntary work in clubs and associations, other research looks at the self-organizing and autonomous political activism of migrants and refugees. Political participation is thus as various and heterogeneous as Migra*BPoC resistance is.
The NUS Black Students Campaign National Students Survey from the UK shows that 42% of students are convinced that the curriculum does not address and includes issues such as discrimination, equality and diversity. 34% of the students said that they could not contribute their experience and perspective as a BPoC student to lectures, seminars and tutor meetings (UCL 2015).
The curriculum is dominated by “‘white ideas’ by ‘white authors’” which can be considered as “a result of colonialism that has normalized whiteness and made blackness invisible” (Peters 2015: 642).
HEIs are not only places where discrimination and racism take place but are also essential of “reproducing white privilege (…) through misinterpretations of history and the ‘othering’ of minorities, shaping both white and non-white subjectivities and identities” (Peters 2015: 643).
At University College London (UCL) a campaign was founded called “Why is my curriculum white?”. This campaign seized on those critiques to raise awareness about the topic and to force decolonization of the curriculum (Hussain 2015).
In Germany on Twitter, the hashtag #schauhin was trending in 2013. Under this hashtag, people tweeted their experiences with everyday racism.
Migra*BPoC Resistance is an essential part of the fight against discrimination and racism in society. It gives a public sphere to people who feel overlooked and overheard in our society, excluded and perceived as “foreign” and left alone with all this. This can facilitate social change. But it also gives people the opportunity to share their experiences with others with similar ones and to realize that they are not alone. The way discrimination and racism are dealt with (see Neoliberal Compliance) is individual, as is the choice and manner of resistance.
The following exercise is a board game that aims at making visible challenges and difficulties of everyday life – academic-related and otherwise – connected to Neoliberal Compliance, Eurocentrism, and Migra*BPoC Resistance, as well as enforcing strategies of mutual cooperation and support. The activity methodology is inspired by Paulo Freire’s ideas on exercises of codification and de-codification, which entails a three phases activity.
Firstly, a common issue within the student group is identified in a quasi-ethnographic approach; i.e., through carefully listening to the group, educators/researchers identify topics that afflict the students.
Following, these topics are codified in one observable support – a board game in this case – in order to present and represent the issue in an observable manner. Lastly, the situations observed during the game should be discussed with the students under an organized moderation (the de-codification), connecting the circumstances observed during the game with the students’ everyday life.
The text is divided into three main parts:
- Objectives of the exercise
- Academic Carousel – The game